Serious Southern BusinessBy Josef Aukee

A guide to Bluegrass Country’s first-rate meeting cities

Serious Southern Business

The state’s key convening regions are strong as thoroughbreds, and Kentucky’s hospitality and meetings industry professionals also know how to keep events going to the finish line.

Well known for horse racing, auto manufacturing, distilleries, tobacco farming and bluegrass music, Kentucky also promotes the arts, particularly with the acclaimed Humana Festival of New American Plays, held each spring at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and drawing theater professionals and enthusiasts from more than 40 states and nine countries. Of course, opportunities to hear bluegrass music are plentiful, and the genre is notably celebrated at the annual Festival of the Bluegrass, held in June at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground in Lexington.

The Civil War Sesquicentennial runs through 2015 with events throughout the region. Though Kentucky was a slave state, it declined to secede from the Union, making it “neutral” and literally a state in the middle of the war. Its northern border, covering more than 650 miles, marked part of the Mason Dixon Line and many of the final stops on the Underground Railroad. Frankfort was the only Northern state capital to be taken by the Confederates. Interestingly, President Lincoln was born in Kentucky. The state is rich with sites marking battles large and small that groups can visit today.

Lost River Cave, Bowling Green

Kentucky is the only state with most of its boundaries formed by rivers: the Mississippi to the west, the Ohio on the north and the Big Sandy and Tug Fork rivers to the east. Central rivers include the Cumberland, Green and Tennessee. The primary regions are the eastern Appalachian Mountains area, marked by scenic passages, river gorges and famous bourbon distillery tours; the south-central region with Bowling Green and Mammoth Cave National Park; and the north-central region, encompassing the business centers of Lexington and Louisville and the setting for the Kentucky Derby. Northern Kentucky includes the three-county area along the banks of the Ohio River just south of Cincinnati. It has all the advantages of a major urban center with spacious conference facilities, arts and culture, and airlift.

The state benefits from its proximity to both Midwest and Southeastern states for drive meetings; and with strong regional airline service to Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville, it’s a contender for national meetings as well.

Horses of the World Park at Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington